The End of the Beginning: The Agriculture Technology Revolution Enters “Phase Two”
Brook Cunningham, Managing Director, Lazard Global Agribusiness and Commodities, talks about what digital and technological innovations are required to achieve balance between supply and demand.
The supply and demand equation underlying our global food system is increasingly out of balance.
On the demand side, consumer preference continues to evolve toward natural, organic, sustainably grown, and locally sourced foods—a trend which is becoming as much a philosophy of life as a means of agricultural production. Today, people want to know if their food contains genetically modified ingredients, where and how it was grown, what is in it, how it was processed, and how it reached their table.
On the supply side, the world faces daunting demographic and resource challenges—including the need to feed 2 billion-plus more people by 2050, declining arable land, pressure on global water systems, and ongoing climate change. Meeting these challenges will require strong commercial-scale agricultural production, global distribution networks and infrastructure, and further increases in crop yields, all while using fewer resources.
Achieving balance between these seemingly opposite trends is critical. Best practices from mass commercial agriculture need to be applied to organic and local farms in order to improve efficiency and provide economies of scale, as well as to increase food safety. Global transportation and logistics networks need to expand and adapt to accommodate the demand for food traceability and wider distribution of organic and non-GMO products. New sustainable farming methods need to develop and proliferate, not only because they are good for the planet, but because the economics of feeding the world will require them.
These issues are highly complex and solutions will take time. However, the industry is moving in the right direction, led by the digitization of the farm, with three key trends driving us into a new phase of the agriculture technology revolution:
- 1. Further enhancements in on-farm technology to support data-driven decision-making
- 2. A shift toward “outcome-based” solutions for farmers; and
- 3. An increase in strategic collaboration across the agribusiness value chain.
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Brook Cunningham will chair the opening session at World Agri-Tech, Tuesday March 20: Leaders Debate: Harnessing Innovation to Nourish Future Generations Sustainably
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